Anna hadn't known what to expect when she arrived at Pearl Harbor, hadn't really thought about it. But this place, it was what she wanted to see. The museum, the plaques in the neatly trimmed yard, the information she would have loved the time to wander through and see. But they had tickets and not a lot of time, so she reassured Derek that she was ok and joined Chip with the group heading to the Arizona Memorial.
"Thank you," she told her friend.
"Not a problem," Chip replied, "I keep meaning to come out here, but I haven't yet."
Anna took a shaky breath as the crowd began to file into a theater. She tried to focus on the movie, but it was difficult. She couldn't keep her mind off the small white structure on the other side of the water, the symbol of such a great loss.
Finally, they left the theater and climbed onto a boat and Anna smiled warmly as Chip took her hand. "Excuse me," the woman said sitting next to them, "I couldn't help but notice," she gestured at their chests, "are you two military?"
"I was," Anna said, touching her dog tags. It hadn't seemed right not to wear them here. "I was wounded in Afghanistan and medically discharged."
Chip shrugged, "I'm finishing my college degree before I go for officer's training."
"Oh," the woman said and smiled, "Thank you for serving."
"Thank you for caring," Anna replied, looking up as the boat began to move.
It was a lifetime, it was minutes only, but they were there and Anna slid off the seat, her hand in Chip's so tight her knuckles were white.
The memorial was plain but elegant. She looked carefully at the first room, with the flags, and then stepped into the center part. Quickly she found her way to an opening where she could see the ship.
Staring down at the ship, however, Anna thought of the people who had died. Some of them had been killed instantly, but others, too many others, had been trapped. They had known. They had felt their death coming by inches.
The railing between her and the water was hot and when she brushed against it, the heat started to trigger a memory of fire and dust and heat and a panicked face.
Anna shook her head and moved on with the group, pausing to read the dedication plaque with a faint smile. Then she moved on to the open hole, but the water wasn't clear enough for a true look at the Arizona.
Finally, there was the wall. Anna stared at the names and wondered if there was a Winchester somewhere on that wall. She didn't think so. Almost reverently, she read the inscription, "TO THE MEMORY OF THE GALLANT MEN HERE ENTOMBED AND THEIR SHIPMATES WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN ACTION ON DECEMBER 7, 1941 ON THE U.S.S. ARIZONA."
The line moved on and Chip pulled her forward.
Something caught her eye and she looked down to find a marble bench, there had been one on the other side, but this one caught her eye. She couldn't make out the words but their meaning sunk in as she stared at the names. It was a memorial for survivors who had later chosen the Arizona as a final resting place.
Staring at those names, Anna's knees buckled and she couldn't stand. Her vision blurred, from either tears or contacts, and she shook, because she knew these men. Not them personally, but she understood. They had survived, were probably called heroes, while deep inside a voice whispered that they hadn't done enough, they were less than, they hadn't deserved to survive. These men had lain awake at night, thinking about how they could have saved their shipmates. These men had squirmed under the appellation of hero, because the real heroes had gone down with the ship.
She had come to the memorial to honor the memory of heroes; she hadn't expected a small shrine to the survivors. Taking a deep breath, Anna clamped down on her emotions enough to let Chip help her up. "Sorry," she whispered.
"It's ok," Chip said, and he got it. She could tell looking at him that he understood why those names and those words had affected her.
She looked back one last time. "I hope you found your peace," she whispered to the ghosts she couldn't see. Then she turned and followed Chip back out to the middle section. Caught in the crowd at another opening, Anna couldn't help but look out.
There were ghosts out there, she could see them. But they didn't seem angry. No one else said anything, so they didn't see the apparitions. It was a small group of men, dressed in World War II era uniforms and when she saw them they saluted her. Anna's breath hitched, and without thinking of anyone else, she saluted them back.